THE BOOK OF 2 KINGS
Lesson 1: Chapters 1-3
Part I: The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
Reigns of Kings Ahaziah and Jehoram of Israel
The End of the Elijah Cycle and the beginning of Elisha's Mission

Almighty Lord,
The story of Elijah being caught up to Heaven gives us hope that one day we too will be caught up to Heaven and given admittance into Your divine presence. Like Elijah, our entire life's journey should be a prelude to that divine appointment in which we strive to fulfill our mission to do Your will and to respond with mercy and love to our brothers and sisters in the human family. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our study of the good and bad kings of Israel and Judah and the decisions we all have in choosing good over evil. As we pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

+ + +

In their "one to one" encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to the Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.
Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2584

The Book of 2 Kings carries on the narrative from the last chapter of the Book of 1 Kings, evidence that the two books were once a single book.(1) 2 Kings continues to relate the tragic history of the two nations of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah that were both on a course to divine judgment and exile. As in the Book of 1 Kings, an inspired writer (or writers) is not named, but in 1 and 2 Kings the inspired writer repeatedly mentions the history of the two nations in the books of the Annals of the Kings of Israel and Judah, and in 2 Chronicles 24:27 the inspired writer also mentions a commentary on the Book of Kings as a verification of the events that have been recorded.

In the books of 1 and 2 Kings, the descendants of David are rejected and nineteen evil kings from nine different dynasties rule the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They encourage the people worship idols and to turn away from Yahweh's covenant that was ratified at Mt. Sinai (Ex 24). Their accumulated sins will lead to God's divine judgment in the lifting of His protection over the people and the land that will result in conquest by the Kingdom of Assyria in 722 BC, to exile from their homeland, and to captivity in foreign lands.

In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the people remained loyal to the descendants of the House of David. Some Davidic kings are bad kings like the rulers of the Northern Kingdom, but others are godly kings who delay God's divine judgment on the Southern Kingdom by calling the people to repentance and the renewal of their covenant vows. In the end, sadly, sin outweighs righteousness: the Kingdom of Judah will be conquered by the Babylonians in 587 BC, and the people will be taken away into exile in Babylonian lands. The book, however, ends on a promising note: the Davidic heir is not dead. He is living in captivity in Babylon, and there is the faint hope that God's promise of an eternal covenant with the House of David that a Davidic king will rule forever may one day still be fulfilled (2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5; 2 Chr 13:5; Sir 45:25; 47:11/13).

SUMMARY OUTLINE OF 2 KINGS
Biblical Period #7 THE DIVIDED KINGDOMS
Covenant The Sinai Covenant [ & the Davidic Covenant]
Focus Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah The Kingdom of Judah
Scripture 1:1-------------9:1------------17:1-------------18:1-------------22:1-----------25:1-----25:30
Division Ministry of Elisha during reigns of Ahaziah and Jehoram The reigns of ten kings of Israel and eight kings of Judah The fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel The reigns of good king Hezekiah and two bad kings The reigns of good king Josiah and four bad kings The fall of the Southern Kingdom of Judah
Topic Israel and Judah under the reign of bad and good kings The surviving Kingdom of Judah
Israel and Judah:
on the pathway to divine judgment
Judah on the pathway to divine judgment
Location Samaria and deportation to Assyria Jerusalem and deportation to Babylon
Time 131 years
(853 BC " 722 BC)

128 years
(715 BC " 587 BC)

The Biblical translation for this study is from the New Jerusalem Bible with notes on the literal Hebrew or Greek text from the Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English, vol. II. In the NJB, where God's Divine Name is found it is noted in the translation. In other translations God's Divine Name is substituted by either LORD or GOD.

Part I: The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (2 Kng 1:1-17:41)

  1. The Reign of Ahaziah king of Israel (2 Kng 1:1-18)
  2. The end of the Elijah cycle and beginning of the Elisha cycle (2 Kng 2:1-25)
  3. The Reign of Jehoram king of Israel (2 Kng 3:1-27)
  4. The Mission and Miracles of Elisha (2 Kng 4:1-8:15)
  5. The Reign of Jehoram king of Judah (2 Kng 8:16-24)
  6. The Reign of Ahaziah king of Judah (2 Kng 8:25-9:37)
  7. The Reign of Jehu king of Israel (2 Kng 10:1-36)
  8. The Reign of Queen Athaliah in Judah (2 Kng 11:1-16)
  9. The Reign of Joash/Jehoash king of Judah (2 Kng 11:17-12:21)
  10. The Reign of Jehoahaz king of Israel (2 Kng 13:1-9)
  11. The Reign of Joash/Jehoash king of Israel and death of Elisha (2 Kng 13:10-25)
  12. The Reign of Amaziah king of Judah (2 Kng 14:1-22)
  13. The Reign of Jeroboam II king of Israel (2 Kng 14:23-29)
  14. The Reign of Azariah king of Judah (2 Kng 15:1-7)
  15. The Reign of Zechariah king of Israel (2 Kng 15:8-12)
  16. The Reign of Shallum king of Israel (2 Kng 15:13-15)
  17. The Reign of Menahem king of Israel (2 Kng 15:16-22)
  18. The Reign of Pekahiah king of Israel (2 Kng 15:23-26)
  19. The Reign of Pekah king of Israel (2 Kng 15:27-31)
  20. The Reign of Jotham king of Judah (2 Kng 15:32-38)
  21. The Reign of Ahaz king of Judah (2 Kng 16:1-20)
  22. The Reign of Hosea the last king of Israel (2 Kng 17:1-41)

After a long period of decline at the beginning of the first millennium, the ancient kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia experienced a resumption of their former vitality under gifted rulers of new dynasties. The Kingdom of Assyria, with its capitals at Calah and Nineveh on the east bank of the Tigris River, began to recover its former glory under the leadership of Assurnasirpal II (884-859 BC) and eventually achieved dominance over the regions of Mesopotamia, Syria and the Levant in the 9th " 7th centuries BC, in what historians refer to as the Neo-Assyrian era. In the beginning of their resurgence, the Assyrian rulers were intent on controlling the trade routes through northern Syria and into the mineral rich mountain country of Anatolia (Turkey). Eventually their ambition spread to the south.

King Omri and his son Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (like David and Solomon) had control over Israel's traditional territories on the east side of the Jordan River in the Gilead and as far south as land north of the Arnon River, an area that was disputed with the state of Moab. According to 2 Kings 3:4-5, King Mesha of Moab continued to bring tribute to the Northern Kingdom during the reigns of Omri and Ahab, but rebelled when Ahab died. A Moabite inscription, known as the Mesha Stela, found at Dhiban, a site c. 20 miles south of Dibon (modern Ammon, Jordan), King Mesha's capital, records that "the land of Medeba" (region about 18 miles SW of Ammon) was under Israelite control "during Omri's days" and "half the days of his son," indicating that King Ahab maintained control of central Transjordan until the later part of his reign.(1) When Israel was defeated in the battle against Ben Hadad II of Damascus and King Ahab was killed (1 Kngs 22:29-38), Israel lost the lands in the northern Transjordan and soon the Moabites in the south were ready to revolt and break away from Israelite control. The exception was the state of Edom that was still controlled by the Southern Kingdom of Judah. By the time Ahab's son Ahaziah succeeded him as king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (853 BC), it was clear to all the nations in the Levant that the balance of power was shifting in the region and that the growing power of the Assyrians was going to be a greater threat to the region than the Aramaean kingdom of Damascus with whom King Ahab had fought three wars.

Chapter 1: The Short Reign of Ahaziah son of Ahab of Israel and the Last Mission of the Prophet Elijah

Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned over Israel for two years. He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, by following the example of his father and mother, and of Jeroboam son of Nebat who had led Israel into sin. He served Baal and worshipped him, and provoked the anger of Yahweh God of Israel just as his father had done.(1)
1 Kings 22:52-54

The conclusion of the Elijah cycle in 2 Kings 1:1-2:18 includes:

  1. Elijah's prophecy of death for King Ahaziah and the death of 102 of Ahaziah's royal guard (1:1-18).
  2. The preparation for Elijah's departure and Elisha's request for a double portion of Elijah's spirit (2:1-10).
  3. Elijah's assumption into heaven and the beginning of the Elisha cycle (2:11-18).

2 Kings 1:1-8 ~ King Ahaziah seeks a prophet
1 After Ahab's death Moab rebelled against Israel. 2 Ahaziah had fallen from the balcony [through the lattice] of his upper room in Samaria, and was lying ill; so he sent messengers, saying to them, "Go and consult [speak to] Baal-Zebub god of Ekron and ask whether I shall recover from my illness." 3 But the angel of Yahweh said [spoke] to Elijah the Tishbite, "Up! Go and intercept the king of Samaria's messengers. Say [speak] to them, Is there no God in Israel, for you to go and consult [speak to] Baal-Zebub god of Ekron? 4 Yahweh says this: You will never leave the bed you have got into; you are certainly going to die.'" And Elijah set out. 5 The messengers returned to the king, who said, "Why have you come back?" 6 A man came to meet us," they answered, "He said, Go back to the king who sent you and tell [speak to] him: Yahweh says this: Is there no God in Israel, for you to go and consult [speak to] Baal-Zebub god of Ekron? For this, you will never leave the bed you have got into; you are certainly going to die.'" 7 He said, "This man who met you and said [spoke] all this, what was he like?" 8 "A man wearing a hair cloak", they answered, "and a leather loincloth." It was Elijah the Tishbite," he said. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 971-72.

King David conquered Moab in the 10th century BC and had made it a vassal state. When Israel lost the war against the Aramaean King Ben-Hadad II and King Ahab was killed in 853 BC, Mesha, king of Moab decided to take advantage of Israel's political instability to end Moab's vassal status. His success was recorded on a stela he commissioned that was discovered near the ancient Moabite capital, and the story will be told in detail in 2 Kings Chapter 3. The whole narrative between 2 Kings 1:1 and 3:5 is bracketed by the statement confirming Moab's revolt after Ahab's death.

King Ahaziah of Israel was a contemporary of King Jehoshaphat of Judah3, becoming king in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat's reign (853 BC) but dying in the 18th year (852 BC; see 2 Kng 3:1). He reigned for less than a year, since under the system of counting reignal years in the Northern Kingdom the count began in the year the king was crowned and at the turn of the new year it became the official second year of reign; even if he died at the beginning of a new year, it was credited to his length of reign (see the document: Dating the Reigns of the Kings of Judah and Kings of Israel.htm).

The key word in the following narrative is the two forms of the verb "to speak" [dabar': pronounced daw-bar'; and dabar: pronounced daw-baw] that is repeated again and again. The verb is used 18 timed from verse 2 to verse 18 in the Hebrew and Greek text. Repeated words and phrases are the keys to understanding the message of a Biblical passage. Also notice the repetition of "threes" in the narrative.

2 Ahaziah had fallen from the balcony [through the lattice] of his upper room in Samaria, and was lying ill; so he sent messengers, saying to them, "Go and consult [speak to] Baal-Zebub god of Ekron and ask whether I shall recover from my illness.
Ahaziah, the son of Ahab king of Israel and his Phoenician queen, Jezebel, succeeded his father as king of the Northern Kingdom in c. 853 BC. The next year he had an accident and fell from the balcony or lattice window of his palace at Samaria.
Question: Probably, because of the influence of his parents, to which god did Ahaziah turn to help in his time of need? See 1 Kng 16:31-32; 18:4.
Answer: He turned to the Phoenician and Canaanite god of his mother, Baal.

Ekron was a former Philistine city that had belonged to Israel since the time of King David's conquest of Philistine territory. In the northwest, not too far from the coast, Ekron was probably the closest city devoted to Baal worship to Ahaziah's capital at Samaria. Each city that worshipped Baal had its own version of the god. We know from ancient texts that in Ekron the deity was worshipped as Baal-zebal: "lord of the lofty abode", or "lord the prince," which the inspired writers rendered in disgust as Baal-zebub [Beel-zebub] meaning "lord of flies" or Baal-zebul [Beel-zebul], meaning "lord of dung." In the Gospels, Jesus will be accused by the Pharisees of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul "the prince of demons" (Mt 12:24-27; Mk 3:22-26; Lk 11:15-19; c.f. Mt 10:25). The city of Ekron will be denounced by the prophets Amos (1:8), Jeremiah (25:20), Zephaniah (2:4), and Zechariah (9:5, 7) as a symbol of evil power to be destroyed.

3 But the angel of Yahweh said [spoke] to Elijah the Tishbite, "Up! Go and intercept the king of Samaria's messengers. Say [Speak] to them, Is there no God in Israel, for you to go and consult [speak to] Baal-Zebub god of Ekron?
Yahweh calls Elijah to challenge the authority of Ekron's god and provide a prophetic word concerning Ahaziah's future. That prophetic word is that he will not recover, and it is the message the king's men take to Ahaziah.

7 He said, "This man who met you and said [spoke] all this, what was he like?" 8 "A man wearing a hair cloak", they answered, "and a leather loincloth." It was Elijah the Tishbite," he said.
By the description of Elijah's distinctive dress, the king knows the prophecy is from his father's nemesis, Elijah.
Question: Who is it in the New Testament who will dress in the same manner as Elijah? Why? See Mt 3:1-4; 17:9-10; Lk 1:13-17; and Mal 3:23-24/4:5-6.
Answer: St. John the Baptist dressed in the same manner as Elijah. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah to proclaim the same message of repentance as Elijah for the covenant people.

St. John's message of repentance was to prepare the people for the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah and he dressed in the same manner as Elijah so the people would recognize his connection to Elijah in Malachi's prophecy. In Matthew 17:9-10, Jesus will tell His Apostles that St. John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi's prophecy.

2 Kings 1:9-18 ~ Ahaziah sends for Elijah and the destruction of 102 men
9 He then sent a captain of fifty soldiers with his fifty men to Elijah, whom they found sitting on top of a hill; the captain went up to him [spoke] and said, "Man of God, the king says [has spoken], Come down.'" 10 Elijah answered [and spoke to] the captain, If I am a man of God, may fire fall from heaven and destroy both you and your fifty men." And fire fell from heaven and destroyed him and his fifty men. 11 The king sent a second captain of fifty to him, again with fifty men, and he too went up [spoke out] and said, "Man of God, this is the king's order, Come down at once.'" 12 Elijah answered [and spoke to] them [him in LXX], "If I am a man of God, may fire fall from heaven and destroy both you and your fifty men." And lightning fell from heaven and destroyed him and his fifty men. 13 The king then sent a third captain of fifty to him, with another fifty men. The third captain of fifty came up to Elijah, fell on his knees before him and pleaded with him. "Man of God," he said, "May my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours count for something in your eyes. 14 Fire has fallen from heaven and destroyed two captains of fifties and their companies, but this time may my life count for something in your eyes!" 15 The angel of Yahweh said [spoke] to Elijah, "Go down with him; do not be afraid of him." He rose and accompanied him down to the king, 16 and said [spoke] to him, "Yahweh says this, [Is there no God in Israel] Since you sent messengers to consult [speak to] Baal-Zebub god of Ekron, you will never leave the bed you have got into; you are certainly going to die.'" 17 And in accordance with the word of Yahweh which Elijah had uttered [spoken], he died. Since he had no son, his brother Jehoram succeeded him, in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. 18 The rest of the history of Ahaziah, and his career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, pages 972-73. The Greek translation has "him" instead of "them" in verse 12, which makes more sense because in verse 10 Elijah is speaking to "him" the captain of the guard.

The pagan people of the ancient Near East thought that the magical power of curses could be nullified either by forcing the person who made the curse to retract the statement or by killing the person so the curse would accompany him/her to the grave. King Ahaziah probably sent the commander and his men to capture or kill the prophet in the hope that he could nullify the prophecy before it could come true. However, one cannot escape God's divine judgment uttered by a true prophet. The king will send three groups of 50 men and their commander. Two times the king sends his soldiers and two times fire from heaven consumes them as a sign that Elijah is a true prophet. Ever since his defeat of the prophets of Baal, fire had become Elijah's prophetic signature. In the Bible fire can be a symbol of both consecration and judgment.
Question: In what other events has fire from heaven been an instrument of divine judgment? For example see Gen 19:24; Lev 10:1-2 and Num 16:35.
Answer:

  1. The wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed in fire (Gen 19:24).
  2. Fire from heaven consumed the two elder sons of Aaron for improperly offering incense (Lev 10:1-2).
  3. Fire from heaven consumed the 250 Levites who demanded the authority of chief priests and attempted to offer incense (Num 16:35).

Elijah will ascend to heaven in fire at the conclusion of his mission, and fire will also mark the eschatological judgment at the end of time as we know it as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah (see Is 34:1-4, 8-10 and also Rev 14:9-14).

After the deaths of 102 men, the third commander understood the power of God's true prophet and approached Elijah with fear and reverence, referring to himself and his men as Elijah's "servants." At God's command, Elijah accompanied the soldiers back to the palace in Samaria and delivered God's judgment against the king for rejecting Yahweh in favor of a false god.

16 and said [spoke] to him, "Yahweh says this, [Is there no God in Israel] Since you sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub god of Ekron, you will never leave the bed you have got into; you are certainly going to die.'"
Repetitions of threes in a narrative usually points to what is part of God's divine plan.
Question: What are the repetitions of "threes" in this part of the narrative in the story of Ahaziah's death? Look for repeats of phrases in verses in 3, 6, and 16, in verses 9, 11, and 13, and in 4, 6, and 16
Answer:

  1. The three groups of 50 soldiers and their commanders.
  2. The three times the phrase "is there no God in Israel" is repeated.
  3. The three times Ahaziah's death is prophesied.

In addition to the three sets of 50 men, in the literal text the phrase "is there no God in Israel" is repeated three times (verses 3, 6 and 16) and the prophecy of Ahaziah's death is also prophesied three times (verses 4, 6 and 16). The key to understanding the story is in the repetition of the verb "to speak" and the repetition of "is there no God in Israel. The whole problem with Ahaziah that resulted in God's divine judgment was:

  1. He did not recognize that Yahweh is "the God in Israel."
  2. He did not listen when God "spoke" through His prophet.

Ahaziah died and was succeeded by another son of Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaziah's younger brother Jehoram. The new king of Israel has the same name as the Jehoram king of Judah who has ruled for two years prior to Jehoram of Israel's coronation. In Matthew's Gospel, King Jehoram of Judah is called Joram and is an ancestor of Joseph of Nazareth (Mt 1:8, 16).

Chapter 2: The End of the Elijah Cycle and the Beginning of the Elisha Cycle

...anoint Elisha son of Shaphat, of Abel-Meholah, as prophet to succeed you. Anyone who escapes the sword of Hazael will be put to death by Jehu; and anyone who escapes the sword of Jehu will be put to death by Elisha.
1 Kings 19:16b-17

Such was Elijah, who was enveloped in a whirlwind; and Elisha was filled with his spirit; throughout his life no ruler could shake him, and no one could subdue him. No task was too hard for him, and even in death his body prophesied. In his lifetime he performed wonders, and in death his works were marvelous. Despite all this the people did not repent, nor did they give up their sins, until they were herded out of their country and scattered all over the earth; only a few of the people were left, with a ruler of the House of David. Some of them did what pleased the Lord, others piled sin on sin.
Sirach 48:12-16/13-18

2 Kings 2:1-6 ~ Elijah prepares for the end of his ministry
1 This is what happened when Yahweh took Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind: Elijah and Elisha set out from Gilgal, 2 and Elijah said to Elisha, "You stay here, for Yahweh is only sending me to Bethel." But Elisha replied, "As Yahweh lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!" and they went down to Bethel. 3 The brotherhood [sons] of prophets living at Bethel came out to meet Elisha and said, "Do you know that Yahweh will carry your lord and master away today?" "Yes, I know," he said, "be quiet." 4 Elijah said, "Elisha, you stay here, Yahweh is only sending me to Jericho." But he replied, "As Yahweh lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!" and they went on to Jericho. 5 The brotherhood [sons] of prophets living at Jericho went up to Elisha and said, "Do you know that Yahweh will carry your lord and master away today?" "Yes, I know," he said, "be quiet." 6 Elijah said, "Elisha, you stay here, Yahweh is only sending me to the Jordan." But he replied, "As Yahweh lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you!" And they went on together. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 973.

Question: How many repeats do you notice in the narrative?
Answer: Elijah urges Elisha to leave him three times and three times Elisha refuses, making an oath in Yahweh's name three times not to leave his master. Twice the brotherhood/sons of prophets tell Elisha they know that his master is leaving and twice Elisha tells them to be quiet.

The "sons of the prophets" (literal translation) are communities of prophets; one group lives at Bethel and the other at Jericho. These may be the two communities of prophets Obadiah saved from Jezebel (1 Kng 18:4, 13). They may have prophetic gifts, since they know Elijah is going to be taken away, or Elijah has told them that he is leaving. But they do not have the kind of powerful relationship that Elijah has with God. Elisha's rebuke to them may signal his discomfort with the knowledge that he will be losing his mentor. Elisha's three times vow of refusal to be parted from Elijah shows the depth of his devotion. Elijah and Elisha start out from Gilgal (the Gilgal to the north of Bethel and not the Gilgal near Jericho) and travel south to Bethel and then east to the Jordan River near Jericho.

1 Kings 2:7-18 ~ Elijah is assumed into heaven and Elisha succeeds him
7 Fifty of the brotherhood of prophets followed them, halting some distance away as the two of them stood beside the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water; and the water divided to the left and right, and the two of them crossed over dry-shod. 9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Make your request. What can I do for you before I am snatched away from you?" Elisha answered, "Let me inherit a double share of your spirit." 10 "Your request is difficult," Elijah said. "If you see me while I am being snatched away from you, it will be as you ask; if not, it will not be so." 11 Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it, and shouted, "My father ! My father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!" Then he lost sight of him, and taking hold of his own clothes he tore them in half. 13 He picked up Elijah's cloak which had fallen, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took Elijah's cloak and struck the water. "Where is Yahweh, the God of Elijah?" he cried. As he struck the water it divided to right and left, and Elisha crossed over. 15 The brotherhood [sons] of prophets saw him in the distance, and said, "The spirit of Elijah has come to rest on Elisha"' they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 "Look," they said, "Your servants have fifty strong men with them, let them go and look for your master; the Spirit of Yahweh may have taken him up and thrown him down on a mountain or into a valley." "Send no one," he replied. 17 But they so shamed him with their insistence that he consented. So they sent fifty men who searched for three days without finding him. 18 They then came back to Elisha who had stayed in Jericho; he said, "Didn't I tell you not to go?"

The community of the prophets that accompanied them stopped at some distance from the west side of the Jordan River. Elijah performed one last public miracle by parting the waters of the Jordan River so he and his disciple could cross over to the other side on dry land.

Question: Before parting from Elisha, Elijah asks him to make one last request. What is Elisha's petition?
Answer: He asks to inherit a double share of his master's spirit.

Elisha's request to receive a "double portion" of his master's spirit was not a desire to surpass Elijah in his ministry by being twice as great. Elisha was speaking in terms of inheritance law to express the desire to carry on Elijah's ministry as his heir. Inheritance law assigned a "double portion" of the father's possessions to the firstborn son/heir (see Dt 21:15-17). It is Elisha's desire to be acknowledged as Elijah's spiritual heir and to carry on Elijah's mission in calling Israel to repentance as God's agent to the apostate covenant people of the Northern Kingdom. This is not a surprise to Elijah since God had already told him that Elisha was to be his successor (1 Kng 19:19-21).

Question: Why does Elijah tell Elisha it is a difficult request but it will be fulfilled if he sees him leave?
Answer: A prophetic spirit is not inherited but is a gift of God and only God can grant Elisha's request. Elijah knows if Elisha is permitted to see the supernatural event of his leaving, which will be hidden from most human eyes, that God will grant his request.

This is the case; the sons of the prophets on the other side of the river will only see the physical framework of the event and not the miraculous event itself.

11 Now as they walked on, talking as they went, a chariot of fire appeared and horses of fire coming between the two of them; and Elijah went up to heaven in the whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it, and shouted, "My father ! My father! Chariot of Israel and its chargers!"
It was common to refer to a leader of the people or to one's mentor as "father." The Davidic vicars who represented the kings of Israel were referred to as the people's "father" (Is 22:21-23) and Jesus referred to Abraham as "father Abraham" (Jn 8:56). In the same tradition, Catholics refer to the priests of their faith communities as "father" and the Vicar of Christ who is the chief steward of the Church of Christ the King until He returns is called in Italian "the Papa", from the Latin papa and from the Greek pappas.

Elisha is granted the vision of what appears to him to be a chariot of fire and then they are separated by horses of fire as he sees Elijah being drawn up to heaven in a storm
Question: Fire is a feature of divine manifestation and divine essence in the Bible. Can you give some examples? See Ex 3:2; 13:21; 19:18; 24:17; and Dt 4:24.
Answer:

The vision of Elisha was that of the Lord God (see Hab 3:8). His vision is similar to the vision Ezekiel will see in Ezekiel 1:4-28; 10:1-22 of God's heavenly throne as it moves into the plane of human history and as God leads His heavenly army as Yahweh Sabaoth "Yahweh of Hosts" ("hosts" referring to the army of spiritual beings who serve God) to battle the forces of evil on earth: Yahweh, are you enraged with the rivers, are you angry with the sea, that you should mount your chargers, your rescuing chariots? You uncover your bow, and give the string its full fill of arrows... In rage you stride across the land, in anger you trample the nations. You marched to save your people, to save your anointed one ... (Hab 3:8-13a). And the "chariots of fire" symbolize Gods presence in His glory: The chariots of God are thousand upon thousand (Ps 68:17a); the thousands refer to the angelic host. Later the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) will interpret this event as a sign that God has brought Elijah up into heaven: Then the prophet Elijah arose like a fire ... taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses ... (Sir 48:1, 9). The return of one who comes in the power and spirit of Elijah will be prophesied by the prophet Malachi, in the sixth century BC, after the return of the covenant people from the Babylonian exile to announce the messianic restoration of the 12 tribes (Mal 3:23-24/4:5). It is a prophecy that is fulfilled in St. John the Baptist who will come in the power and spirit of Elijah to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah (Lk 1:17; Mt 11:14; 17:10-12).

12b Then he lost sight of him, and taking hold of his own clothes he tore them in half. 13 He picked up Elijah's cloak which had fallen, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.
The tearing of his own garments is a sign that he has left his own life behind and has assumed Elijah's mission as God's prophet to the people of Israel. He completes the acceptance of Elijah's mission by taking up Elijah's cloak that symbolizes the authority of its owner this is now his own.

14 He took Elijah's cloak and struck the water. "Where is Yahweh, the God of Elijah?" he cried. As he struck the water it divided to right and left, and Elisha crossed over.
As a test of his new authority, Elisha attempts to repeat Elijah's last miracle, calling on Yahweh to demonstrate his new power. The sign of his new authority is clear as the waters of the Jordan River part.

Question: How many times had waters been miraculously parted by God's agents to allow a crossing of water through the dry bed to the other side? Ex 14:21-22; Josh 3:14-17; 2 Kng 2:8, 14.

  1. The crossing of the Red Sea by the children of Israel.
  2. The crossing of the Jordan River into Canaan at the beginning of the conquest.
  3. The crossing of the Jordan River by Elijah and Elisha.

The community of the prophets had been watching on the west bank of the river near Jericho. They saw Elijah part the waters of the Jordan River, but they did not see Elisha's privileged vision of the chariots of fire. They did see Elijah disappear from the east bank of the river, and they did see Elisha's miracle in parting the waters of the Jordan to return to the west bank.

Question: Where did the miracle crossing of the Jordan River by Joshua and the children of Israel take place? Josh 4:19; 5:13.
Answer: It was the same place where Elijah parted the waters of the Jordan and was assumed into heaven and where Elisha crossed back to the western side of the river near Jericho.

Elisha not only received a "double portion" of Elijah's spirit and power, but he will become an ever greater prophet than his mentor by performing more miracles.
Question: What other significant event in the New Testament took place in the same location, and what other prophet received the power and spirit of Elijah? See Lk 1:13-17; Jn 1:19-28; Mt 3:13; CCC 2684.
Answer: John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, was offering his baptism of repentance to prepare the covenant people for the coming of the Messiah on the east side ("beyond the Jordan") of the Jordan River. Jesus received John's baptism on the east side and then crossed to the west bank after His baptism to go into the Judean wilderness to face His Temptation.

Question: How does Elisha's succession to his prophetic ministry after the end of Elijah's minister prefigure St. John the Baptist and Jesus? See Mt 4:12-13, 17.
Answer: Elijah was a great prophet whose mission was to call the people to repentance, but he was succeeded by an even greater prophet. In the same way, St. John the Baptist, whose mission to call the people to repentance, will be succeeded by an even greater "prophet," the supreme prophet Jesus Christ.

15 The brotherhood [sons] of prophets saw him in the distance, and said, "The spirit of Elijah has come to rest on Elisha"' they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 "Look," they said, "Your servants have fifty strong men with them, let them go and look for your master; the Spirit of Yahweh may have taken him up and thrown him down on a mountain or into a valley."
The miracle of the parting of the waters has confirmed to the community of prophets that Elisha is Elijah's successor. They show their acknowledgment of his new position and their respect for Elisha as the new "father" of the community of the prophets by bowing before him. They offer to look for Elijah's body because they saw him disappear in the storm and assume God took his life but left his body somewhere in the vicinity, and they want to give him a proper burial.

"Send no one," he replied. 17 But they so shamed him with their insistence that he consented. So they sent fifty men who searched for three days without finding him. 18 They then came back to Elisha who had stayed in Jericho; he said, "Didn't I tell you not to go?"
Elisha understands that God has taken Elijah into heaven, and so at first he refuses to give his permission for them to look for Elijah's body. But since he understands their request is made out of their desire to honor the old prophet, and because he also knows they need to see that his body is not left behind, he allows them to go. They search for a significant three days before giving up and accepting that Elijah was taken up into the heavens.

Question: What other Old Testament figure was taken up into heaven before experiencing the suffering of physical death? See Gen 5:1, 24.
Answer: Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, like Elijah vanished mysteriously and was believed to have been carried off by God.

Question: When will Elijah appear in the New Testament? See Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36.
Answer: Elijah will appear with Moses with Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration.

The Church has always seen the transition of Enoch and Elijah into heaven without suffering physical death as foreshadowing Christ's Ascension into Heaven as well as the promised entrance into heaven of the Virgin Mary and all the just (Mt 25:40-46). The question is, were Enoch and Elijah only spared the suffering of physical death and did they both die when they were taken, or where they simply assumed into heaven, avoiding death altogether and the time of purification in Sheol, the abode of the dead? Scholars, ancient and modern, are divided on this question. Some believe Elijah did not experience death and was taken into heaven so he could return in the event of the Transfiguration Christ. However, Moses was also present at that event, and he died (Dt 34:5), so to remain alive was not a requirement for the Transfiguration event. Other scholars point out that the gates of heaven were closed to mankind from the time of the Fall of Adam. No person born into original sin could enter the gates of Heaven which were only opened at the Baptism of Christ (Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:21-22; CCC 536, 633, and 1026) and became ready to receive the righteous dead after Jesus' sacrificial death (1 Pt 3:18-20).

1 Kings 2:19-25 ~ Elisha's first two miracles
19 The people of the city said to Elisha, "The city is pleasant to live in, as my lord indeed can see, but the water is foul and the country suffers from miscarriages." 20 "Bring me a new bowl," he said, "and put some salt in it." 21 They brought it to him. Then he went to the source of the water, threw salt into it and said, "Yahweh says this, I make this water wholesome: neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it anymore.'" 22 And the water became wholesome, as it is today, exactly as Elisha had said it would. 23 From there he went up to Bethel, and while he was on the road, some small boys [na'ar*] came out of the town and jeered at him. "Hurry up, baldy!" they shouted. "Come on up, baldy!" 24 He turned round and looked at them; and he cursed them in the name of Yahweh. And two [she-bears] bears came out of the forest and savaged forty-two of the boys. 25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel and then returned to Samaria. [..]= literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 975. *The Hebrew word na'ar can mean a male whose age is anything from infancy to adolescence.

The Elisha cycle begins in this part of the narrative. Like the Elijah stories, the Elisha stories are presented in cycles and interspersed between historical and prophetic narratives. The Elisha stories, unlike the three parts of the Elijah cycle, are presented in fifteen stories of varying length and while Elisha will repeat Elijah's miracle, his miracles are at least double those of his mentor.

The town of Jericho was the home of a community of prophets who now recognized Elisha as their leader and wanted him to stay with them (2 Kng 2:5, 15). Jericho had been rebuilt during the reign of King Ahab of Israel (1 Kng 16:34), but the city had not prospered. Apparently the only water source was still under Joshua's curse on the city of Jericho (Josh 6:26), and both the people and the land suffered and remained unproductive. Elisha's miracle fully removed the old curse judgment (2 Kng 2:21). The salt was not used as a natural purifier because there is the explicit statement that God himself healed/purified the water (verse 21).

23 From there he went up to Bethel, and while he was on the road, some small boys [na'ar*] came out of the town and jeered at him. "Hurry up, baldy!" they shouted. "Come on up, baldy!"
Bethel was the home of another community of prophets who knew that Elijah was going to be "carried away" by Yahweh, but they had not witnessed the miracle (2 Kng 2:3). Perhaps Elisha was traveling there to tell them what had transpired in Elijah's transition and to share the news of his new role as the prophet's successor. A large gang of young hooligans accosted Elisha, speaking to him disrespectfully and taunting him. Baldness was considered a disgrace (Is 3:17, 24), while a full head of hair or a full beard was considered to be a sign of strength and vigor (cf., 2 Sam 14:25-26). By calling Elisha "baldy" the youths were expressing utter disdain for the Lord's representative.

24 He turned round and looked at them; and he cursed them in the name of Yahweh. And two [she] bears came out of the forest and savaged forty-two of the boys.
Sensing he was in danger, the prophet cursed them. As God's agent, Elisha had the power to save or to destroy; those who mock God's agent, mock God. Just as God had used a wild lion to deliver judgment in 1 Kings 13:24-26, He sent two bears to deliver judgment and to protect His prophet (the literal Hebrew text calls them "she-bears"; therefore the bears were protecting Elisha as though he was a cub). Notice the text does not say the bears killed or ate the gang of lads, only that they were mauled. St. Ephraim says this is the beginning of what God said was to be Elisha's mission to take revenge on the children of Israel who had revolted against Him; see 1 Kng 19:16-17 (Ephraim, On the Second Book of Kings, 2:20).

25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel and then returned to Samaria.
Scripture does not tell us why Elisha returned to the site of Elijah's great miracle against the prophets of Baal. Perhaps he withdrew there to pray and to receive confirmation of God's plan for his mission to Israel as the force of God's judgment against an unrepentant people (1 Kng 19:17b-18).

Chapter 3: The Moabite War

Part of the inscription of King Mesha from the Moabite Stela: Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for many days, for Chemosh was angry with his land. And his son succeeded him, and he said he too "I will oppress Moab!" In my days he did say [so*], but I looked down on him and on his house, and Israel has gone to ruin, Yes, it has gone to ruin forever!
* = word added by translator for clarity where text has a gap.

2 Kings 3:1-3 ~ Introduction to the reign of Jehoram king of Israel (852-841 BC)
1 Jehoram son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned for twelve years. 2 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, though not like his father and mother, for he did away with the pillar to Baal which his father had made. 3 Nonetheless, he continued to practice the sins into which Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel and did not give them up.

Elisha succeeded Elijah as Yahweh's chief prophet about midway in Jehoram of Israel's reign (852-841 BC) since Elijah was still living when Jehoram of Judah was king (848-841 BC) and sent him a written prophecy of his death that would result from a bowel disease (2 Chr 21:12-15). Jehoram of Judah became king in the fifth year of Jehoram of Israel's reign (2 Kng 9:16).

Question: For what good act is Jehoram credited?
Answer: He removed the pillar to the false god Baal that his father had erected.

As in the earlier histories, all the bad kings of Israel are compared to Israel's first bad king, Jeroboam (see 1 Kng 12:26-33).
Question: For what sin was King Jeroboam condemned and that Jehoram repeated? See 1 Kng 12:28-33 and 14:7-10.
Answer: He established his own form of worship by promoting idol worship, a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments.

2 Kings 3:4-8 ~ The alliance against Moab
4 Mesha king of Moab was a sheep-breeder and used to pay the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand rams with their wool in tribute. 5 But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6 At once King Jehoram left Samaria and mustered all Israel. 7 After this he sent word to the king of Judah, "The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go to war with me against Moab?" "I will, he replied, "I will be as you, my men with yours, my horses with yours," 8 and added, "Which way are we to attack? "Through the desert of Edom," the other answered.

The inscription known as the Moabite Stela of King Mesha confirms that Moab paid tribute to Israel. It notes the occupation of Moab in the days of King Omri of Israel and his son (Ahab). It also records that King Mesha of Moab undertook actions against the Israelites in occupied northern Moab before Ahab's death. It was at this time (or immediately after Ahab's death), according to the inscription, that Mesha withheld the tribute to Israel (2 Kng 1:1; 3:5), slaughtered people from the Israelite tribe of Gad in the city of Ataroth, and then moved north of the Arnon River with his army.

The unnamed king of Judah who joined Jehoram of Israel was Jehoram of Judah (848-841 BC), son of good king Jehoshaphat. Perhaps he is not named to avoid the confusion over the two kings who had the same name. Jehoram of Israel was the brother-in-law of Jehoram of Judah who married the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (2 Kng 8:18; 2 Chr 18:1). Unfortunately, he was more like his brother-in-law than his father. In his pledge to go to war with his brother-in-law, the king of Judah repeats the same statement his father made in agreeing to go to war against the Aramaean ruler of Damascus in support of Jeroboam's father King Ahab of Israel (1 Kng 22:4). The war against the king of Damascus had disastrous results, and the prophet Jehu chastised Jehoshaphat for making an alliance with a king who hated Yahweh (2 Chr 19:1-3). This new war and new alliance will not fare any better.

Question: How did the armies travel in the plan to attack Moab? See 2 Kng 3:8 and consult a map.
Answer: Their strategy was to march south through the land of Judah, around the southern end of the Dead Sea and through the land of Edom to approach Moab from the south. Moab was north of Edom.

Presumably the majority of King Mesha's army was north of the Arnon River, but the core of his kingdom was south of the river up to the Edomite border. The success of their strategy was dependent on an adequate supply of local water.

2 Kings 3:9-19 ~The expedition of Israel, Judah, and Edom against Moab and the prophecy of Elijah
9 So they set out, the king of Israel, the king of Judah and the king of Edom. They carried out a flanking movement for seven days, until there was no water left for the troops or for the beasts of their baggage train. 10 "Alas!" the king of Israel exclaimed, "Yahweh has summoned us three kings, only to put us into the power of Moab." 11 But the king of Judah said, "Is there no prophet of Yahweh here for us to consult Yahweh through him?" One of the king of Israel's servants answered, "Elisha son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah." 12 "The word of Yahweh is with him," the king of Judah said. So the king of Israel, the king of Judah and the king of Edom went to consult him. 13 But Elisha said to the king of Israel, "What business have you with me? Go to your father's and your mother's prophets." "No," the king of Israel answered, "Yahweh is the one who has summoned us three kings, only to put us into the power of Moab." Elisha replied, 14 "By the life of Yahweh Sabaoth whom I serve, if I did not respect the king of Judah, I would take no notice of you, nor so much as look at you. 15 Now bring me someone who can play the lyre." And as the musician played, the hand of Yahweh came on him 16 and he said, "Yahweh says this, Dig in this valley ditch after ditch,' 17 for Yahweh says, You will see no wind, you will see no rain, but this valley will become full of water, and you and your troops and your baggage animals will drink.' 18 But this is only a trifle in Yahweh's eyes, for he will put Moab itself into your power. 19 You will storm every fortified town, fell every productive tree, block every water-hole, ruin all the best fields with stones."

Question: What three kings formed an alliance to go to war against Moab?
Answer: The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom.

Edom was a vassal kingdom of Judah that had been conquered by King David and continued to be dominated during the reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah (1 Sam 8:13-14; 1 Chr 18:12; 1 Kng 22:48). Jehoram of Judah probably agreed to the alliance because he didn't want the Edomites to be encouraged by a successful Moabite revolt.

Question: After seven days, what problem did the armies encounter that threatened their mission, and who did they blame?
Answer: They ran out of water and they blamed Yahweh, reasoning that it was part of a divine plan against the coalition.

The "valley was a large wadi. These ravines were dry much of the year and only filled with water during abundant rainfall or when flood waters flowed to fill the channels; unfortunately for them, the desert wadi was dry. Blaming Yahweh for their problems recalls the complaints of the children of Israel in their trials in the wilderness. However, they did not consult Yahweh about this expedition. The king of Judah, whose nation had remained loyal to worshiping Yahweh in the Jerusalem Temple, suggests that they now consult a prophet of Yahweh.

Question: His request to consult a prophet of Yahweh echoes the request of what previous king under what circumstances? See 1 Kng 22:7.
Answer: Jehoram of Judah's father, King Jehoshaphat, made a similar request when he was about to go to war as an ally of King Ahab of Israel.

When an officer of King Jehoram of Israel mentioned that Elisha, the successor of Elijah, is present among the army, the kings sent for him. At first Elisha rebuffed the request; like Elijah he was not intimidated by earthly kings. But for the sake of the "king of Judah" he consents to give a prophecy
Question: Why would Elisha want to protect the king of Judah? See 2 Sam 7:16, 29; 23:5; Mt 1:1; Lk 1:31-33.
Answer: He probably means for the sake of the Davidic kings with whom Yahweh has an eternal covenant, rather than the individual. The line of the Davidic kings must continue in order for God's divine plan to be fulfilled in the Redeemer-Messiah who is to be a Davidic heir, and so for the protection of the king of Judah, who probably has not yet had a son and heir, Elisha agrees to give his prophecy.

Under the influence of music, the prophet goes into a trance and delivers both a command and a prophecy.
Question: What does Elisha tell the kings to do and what does he say will be the result?
Answer: His prophecy had two parts: a command and an outcome.

2 Kings 3:20-27 ~ The Moabite war
20 Next morning at the time when the oblation was being offered, water came from the direction of Edom, and the whole terrain was flooded. 21 When the Moabites learned that the kings were advancing to fight them, all those of an age to bear arms were mobilized; they took up position on the frontier. 22 In the morning when they got up, the sun was shining on the water; and in the distance the Moabites saw the water as red as blood. 23 "This is blood!" they said. "The kings must have fought among themselves and killed one another. So now for the booty, Moab!" 24 But when they reached the Israelite camp, the Israelites launched their attack and the Moabites fled before them, and as they advanced they cut the Moabites to pieces. 25 They laid the towns in ruins, and each man threw a stone into all the best fields to fill them up, and they blocked every water-hole and felled every productive tree. In the end, there was only Kir-Hareseth left, which the slingers surrounded and bombarded. 26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle had turned against him, he mustered seven hundred swordsmen in the hope of breaking a way out and going to the king of Aram, but he failed. 27 Then he took his eldest son who was to succeed him and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. Alarmed at this [a great wrath came upon Israel], the Israelites withdrew and retired to their own territory. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 978.

20 Next morning at the time when the oblation was being offered, water came from the direction of Edom, and the whole terrain was flooded.
The next morning the miracle occurred at the same time the Tamid lamb was being sacrificed at the beginning of the morning worship service at the Jerusalem Temple "at the third hour Jewish time or 9 AM our time. Just as Elisha said it would, the dugout wadi filled with water without a rain storm as the water flowed into the wadi from the south. The men of armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom had all the water they needed for themselves and their animals as Elisha prophesied in verse 17. It is significant that the water came from the south into the wadi that was in Edom, a land rich in copper mineral deposits which made the soil red. The word Edom in Hebrew, in fact, means "red."

21 When the Moabites learned that the kings were advancing to fight them, all those of an age to bear arms were mobilized; they took up position on the frontier. 22 In the morning when they got up, the sun was shining on the water; and in the distance the Moabites saw the water as red as blood.
The Moabites marched to meet the invading army and camped on the border between Edom and Moab. The next day when they advanced on the coalition of the three kings that was camped near the wadi, but the wadi appeared to be filled with blood. It was the reflection of the morning sun off the red limestone walls of the wadi that gave the water the appearance of blood.

23 "This is blood!" they said. "The kings must have fought among themselves and killed one another. So now for the booty, Moab!"
Question: How did the Moabites misinterpret what they saw?
Answer: They thought the three different armies had a falling out and had slaughtered each other. The thought they were safe to loot the enemy camp.

24 But when they reached the Israelite camp, the Israelites launched their attack and the Moabites fled before them, and as they advanced they cut the Moabites to pieces.
The Israelites ambushed the army of King Mesha and devastated the Moabite army.

25 They laid the towns in ruins, and each man threw a stone into all the best fields to fill them up, and they blocked every water-hole and felled every productive tree. In the end, there was only Kir-Hareseth left, which the slingers surrounded and bombarded.
Question: What parts of Elisha's prophecy were fulfilled?
Answer: Every part of Elisha's prophecy was perfectly fulfilled.

In the end, there was only Kir-Hareseth left, which the slingers surrounded and bombarded. 26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle had turned against him, he mustered seven hundred swordsmen in the hope of breaking a way out and going to the king of Aram, but he failed.
Kir-Hareseth was the Moabite capital. The armies of Israel, Judah and Edom laid siege to the city and the king of Moab could not break the siege.

27 Then he took his eldest son who was to succeed him and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall.
In a desperate measure, King Mesha offered his son in sacrifice to the Moabite god Chemosh on the top of the city wall, in full view of the entire army of his enemy.(3) In times of national emergency, many ancient cultures practiced human sacrifice. In the Iliad, written in c. the 8th century BC, Homer records the Greek king Agamemnon sacrificing his daughter in the hope that the Greek gods would make the winds favorable for his ships to sail from Greece to Troy.

Alarmed at this [a great wrath came upon Israel], the Israelites withdrew and retired to their own territory.
"A great wrath" can be interpreted as a panic came upon the Israelites.
Question: Human sacrifice was considered very powerful magic. The Israelites and their allies had beaten the Moabites and had fulfilled all of Elisha's prophecy, but how and why did they forfeit their victory?
Answer: Superstition was more powerful than faith. The fear that this ultimate sacrifice of the Moabite king's heir would stir the Moabite god Chemosh to action against their army is what defeated them. They abandoned their advantageous siege of the city out of fear of a false god and a lack of faith and trust in the One True God.

The Israelite coalition, in response to the "strong magic" of human sacrifice that could prompt the Moabite god to strike out against them, retreated in terror. Concerning this passage St. Ephraim writes: "And then the wrath against the Israelites increased, because the calamities, which the Scripture accurately relates after these events, happened to them again. They had seen how God protected them, and the abundance of water that he had made miraculously flow for them and the retreat of their enemies before them. Nevertheless, they persisted in their dishonor, and their hearts were still attached to their calf" [Golden Calf worship] (Ephraim, Second Book of Kings, 3:25-27).

Does it seem shocking to you that the Israelite coalition, that had beaten the enemy and had victory within their grasp as promised through the word of God spoken by his prophet, and were standing outside the gates of their objective, failed to trust the word of God to the point of throwing their victory away? Such has been the failure of men and women down through salvation history. In the Old Testament, God gave divine Law as the pathway to salvation that taught there was no other God but Yahweh, and mankind's only victory over sin and death could be achieved through Him. In the New Testament, God the Son won the victory over sin and death on the Altar of the Cross. His victory promised mankind the gift of eternal salvation. In anticipation of that victory, today we stand outside the gates of the city of the heavenly Jerusalem. All we have to do is to have faith and trust in God to claim that victory, and yet day after day men and women retreat from God and throw away their promised victory. The lesson for us in this story is: "Don't retreat!" Stand firm in the face of the adversities and fears of life; have faith and trust in God and claim your victorious inheritance from the Cross "the heavenly city of eternal life!

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Topic for discussion: Superstition or the idea of "fate" or "karma" should have no impact on the Christian psyche. Define these terms and discuss how these concepts are contrary to faith and the works of God in the lives of believers and in human history.

Question: King Mesha of Moab sacrificed his son for personal advantage in the hope of gaining a victory over the Israelite coalition. Followers of Baal sacrificed children in the hope of being granted economic success or social advantage in life by the god. How is child sacrifice in ancient times repeated today in the sin of abortion? How is the motivation to take the life of a child like the motivations in ancient times or how is it different? Can self-interest at the cost of human life be seen as the false god of modern times?

Endnotes:
1. The books of 1 and 2 Kings, like 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Chronicles were originally one literary work. The Greek Septuagint translation introduced the division into two books and was subsequently repeated in St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate (c. 400 AD) as well as in most modern translations.
2. King Jehoshaphat of Judah was, after his father king Asa, the second of the five godly kings of Judah in the early years of the Divided Kingdom. The other godly Davidic kings of Judah ruled later (Joash, Hezekiah and Josiah). The books of Kings only briefly mention the reign of good king Jehoshaphat, but 2 Chronicles devotes more attention to his reign in chapters 17-20. He did away with worship in most of the "high places," although he was unable to prevent the people from continuing to use certain other illicit places of worship (1 Kng 22:44), he destroyed the Asherah poles (2 Chr 17:3-6), and expelled the male prostitutes (1 Kng 22:47). In addition to these good works, he sent out princes, priests and Levites to teach the people the Law of Moses (2 Chr 17:7-9). But he also made mistakes: he was rebuked for refusing to believe God's prophet Micaiah and associating with evil King Ahab of Israel in a war against the Aramaeans of Damascus (1 Kng 22:1-37; 2 Chr 18:12-27; 19:1-3). He also made a peace treaty with Ahab of Israel in which he married Ahab and Jezebel's daughter to his son and heir (2 Kng 8:18; 2 Chr 18:1; 21:6).
3. Human sacrifice was a deplorable practice of pagan religion in many ancient cultures. At Carthage on the coast of North Africa, archaeologists discovered c. 20,000 urns, each containing the burned bones of 1 to 2 infants or toddlers, in a cemetery devoted to human sacrifice in which only part of the cemetery had been excavated.
1. A stone slab discovered in 1868 at Dibon in southern Transjordan, called the Moabite Stela or Mesha Stela, describes King Mesha's revolt from the Moabite perspective. The inscription is carved on a black basalt stone that is three feet three inches high and now resides in the Louvre in Paris. It was commissioned by King Mesha of Moab and commemorates his successful revolt against Israel. YHWH, the God of Israel is named in the inscription as well as the Moabite god Chemosh. The Moabite victory described in the inscription is attributed to the intervention of Chemosh.

Catechism references:
2 Kng 2:9 (CCC 2684)

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